In recent days, the College has celebrated great women at local level who have given voice and action to the theme of International Women’s Day, Choose to Challenge. Our assembly last week and our IWD breakfast today, both led by College Captains Harriette and Chloe, provided many wonderful opportunities for reflection and empowerment. In this newsletter piece, I offer a few highlights from these presentations.
Clare Moody, Head of Student Formation, along with Chloe and Harriette noted the following to set the scene for International Women’s Day:
The campaign theme for this year’s IWD is “Choose to Challenge”, and the UN Women’s 2021 global theme is "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world", which celebrates the tremendous work of women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there is much to celebrate, there is still much work to do:
"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." (Gloria Steinem). Change is not just about big headline moments, legal victories and international agreements: the way we talk, think, and act every day can create a ripple effect that benefits everyone.
Two examples of this by women of Siena were celebrated this week.
At our College Assembly last week, Siena College Alumna Olivia Kourmadias, from the Class of 2018, was acknowledged. In her brief time since finishing at Siena, Olivia is driving the Monumental Women campaign, through the youth led organization Jasiri, which will “smash the bronze ceiling” by addressing the lack of female representation in Australia’s statues, place names and architecture. This project aims to honour Australia’s influential leaders throughout history.
Olivia writes “We want every young girl to look up at the fearless women before them and embody their power and spirit. We want every young girl to aspire to be leaders capable of being immortalised in bronze. They too can then be commemorated as a statue, can become a monumental woman, who inspires the next generation of monumental women.”
Deb Phyland, Class of 1982, was our guest speaker at the 2021 IWD breakfast. Deb spoke about her personal and professional life being shaped by the Dominican sisters, staff and friendships forged during her time at Siena. Deb reflected honestly and powerfully about her personal experiences of choosing to challenge gendered norms in her professional life. She also recalled a time at school when she herself was challenged to choose a different perspective, which in turn shaped her relationships and mindset. While listening to her wonderful address, I was struck by Deb’s reflective stance – about women, about education and about life. In her opening words Deb noted that never before and never since her time at Siena has she experienced such full strength of women united around each other for good. This enduring memory and her generous reflections provided much for the current generation of Siena students to learn from and further appreciate about the gift of a Siena education, for life.
The IWD breakfast began with a lovely prayer, prepared by Sr Sheila Flynn OP, from which this closing verse is offered:
God of truth and love,
You remind us that women stand in the centre of the Good News and continue to confront us with issues of integrity, dignity and responsibility.
May we continue to be outraged wherever human dignity is compromised.
May we be those ears to listen.
May we be that voice like St. Catherine of Siena was in her time
so that the drama of grace and your life in us may effect transformation in our time.
Members of our student Project Compassion Team have been hard at work providing opportunities for us to connect with this vital awareness and fundraising campaign for Caritas Australia. Current initiatives include Project Compassion reflections during Pause and Pray, ‘Friday Tunes’ and the iconic collection boxes present in each classroom. All funds assist Caritas in responding to issues of justice – to donate simply scan the QR code below.
This week International Women’s Day has been marked in numerous ways across the college - it is significant that IWD falls during Lent, a time of refinement, clarification and discernment. As followers of St Catherine, issues related to women continue to be our concern – the theme for IWD this year has been “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. Members of the Kopanang community in South Africa also celebrated this significant day and have sent messages of gratitude for the much needed items of clothing provided by Siena.
As Dominicans it’s vital for us to keep abreast of what’s happening around us - Pope Francis’ historic trip to Iraq, including visits to the war-torn north, has been deeply significant. It is one that needs to be seen in the context of peace rather than politics.
Term 1 continues at an energetic pace. The final weeks include camps, the Siena in the City program, Year 12 Retreat and a variety of carefully selected activities to benefit the learning and wellbeing of our Year 10 and 11 students. Naplan testing takes place in Week 8 and our Parent Teacher Interviews will be held via Microsoft Teams in Week 7 and 8.
It has been wonderful to be able to resume our regular activities and events.
Bookings for Parent Teacher Interviews are now open for bookings via Siena Central. There are two sessions available, on Thursday, 18 March, from 5.00pm to 7.30pm and Friday, 26 March, 8.30am to 3.45pm. Please note that all PTIs will be conducted via Microsoft Teams using your daughter’s College account. Please access the correspondence sent during the past week for further information and instructions. We encourage you to review your daughter’s interim report beforehand, in order to address any questions you may have.
Years 7 to 12 activities will run in the final week of Term 1 from Tuesday, 30 March to Thursday, 1 April. This program is well planned and supports the learning and wellbeing of our students. We ask for your support in student attendance. Parents will receive individual year level notices next week.
Please note, the Year 9 Siena in the City program is a four day program, commencing on Monday, 29 March and concluding on Thursday, 1 April.
A conversation regarding consent
A recent petition instigated by a former schoolgirl in Sydney calls for young women to come forward if they have been subjected to sexual assault whilst still at school. This call to action has since gone viral with thousands of young women signing the petition or sharing their stories which are often graphic, disturbing and upsetting.
The petition calls for sex education, in particular the issue of consent, to be taught at a younger age in schools. The observation being that consent is being taught too late, with many young people not understanding the boundaries of consent resulting in sexual assault or rape. This call for change has made many schools reassess their curriculum around sex and life education to help protect young people across the nation.
Siena College has been working with a network of schools to develop programs for students and parents around Respectful Relationships. Some of you may remember and have even attended our parent seminar Harmonious Families – Changing the Story for Our Young People. We are committed to providing opportunities to discuss how we can work together to create respectful relationships in our community which includes exploring our understanding of stereotypes, expectations and roles.
Respectful Relationship forms part of the Health curriculum in Years 7 to 10. It acknowledges that our beliefs about the way girls and boys, women and men are supposed to act are formed in childhood and adolescence and also shaped by how we see gender roles and relationships in families, organisations and within media and popular culture.
Gender stereotypes can strongly influence attitudes and behaviours towards us, and in turn towards others, including how we make decisions and use our power, status, access and control.
Curriculum delivery alone is not sufficient to drive significant change in this space and we continue to look for opportunities to talk with our students about their rights and personal safety through our Wellness programs. We endeavour to create safe spaces at school so that our students feel that they can share their experiences and seek support when they need it. In recent times, we have spoken a great deal about the partnership between home and school and this issue amplifies the need for this to continue. Parents also need to start having conversations around consent sooner rather than later, as some teens experience their first sexual encounter well before the subject matter is delivered. It is not enough for parents or carers to assume that your teenager knows or understands what consent means and the implications surrounding it. It is important for them to learn about boundaries to enable them to respect themselves and their partners.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg talks about the importance of parents normalising these conversations with their children and offers parents guidance around the topic of consent to ensure your teenager experiences healthy and respectful relationships. We hope you take time to watch this video. Here is the link to this special report.
Although this may be a sensitive topic and perhaps an awkward subject for many adult carers to address, it is a conversation that needs to be had with all young people as they journey into adolescence. Helping them understand consent is a step towards kindness, sensitivity and respectful relationships.
Each year the Catholic Education Office hosts a Creative Arts Exhibition and invites Catholic schools across Victoria to submit entries for inclusion in the exhibition. This year, artwork from Jasmine Skutela, Jamie Coppen, Kira Acciaressi, Amy Kessler and Milla Testarotta were accepted. Milla Testarotta was also awarded the Creative Arts Committee Award Secondary for her series of three drawing entitled ‘Spot the Liar’.
All students are to be congratulated on their wonderful achievement and Milla for her award.
The exhibition will be open on the following dates and times:
Monday, 15 – Friday, 19 March from 9.00am-4.00pm with extended hours on Thursday, 18 March from 9.00am–7.00pm
Saturday 20 March 12.00pm–4.00pm
In order to attend the exhibition, schools and families are required to make prior bookings and follow the COVID-19 guidelines in place which include wearing a mask at all times, sanitising hands upon entry to the gallery, signing in using the QR codes at the entry points to the gallery and avoiding touching any of the artworks. Nobody will be allowed access to the gallery without a prior booking.
Bookings can be made using this link and are free. There will be no parking available onsite during the exhibition.
Four Year 12 Politics students recently represented the school magnificently with prominent participation and engagement with guest speakers, the federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, Senator Amanda Stoker and Orica CEO, Alberto Calderon. A probing question on the future of the Liberal Party and gender balance from our girls was the highlight of the invitation politics breakfast. Well done to Eleanor Fels, Liv Swift, Saraid Hounihan and Carla Goutzoulas. Canberra awaits!
On Tuesday, 9 March, the Year 9s had a very special visitor come to Siena College, inspiring author Suzy Zail. Suzy spoke to Year 9 about her inspiring novels, especially her most recent book ‘I Am Change’- a heartbreaking and heartwarming story about a young Ugandan girl’s struggles with becoming a woman in her small village, and her hunger for education. Suzy also talked about her other captivating stories, such as the ‘The Tattooed Flower’ inspired from her own father’s experiences and survival as an Auschwitz prisoner during the Holocaust. It was fascinating to hear that writing that book brought both Suzy and her father closer. A handful of Year 9 students, myself included, were allowed the opportunity through English Enrichment to interview Suzy for a podcast linked to our 2021 College theme ‘Be Possibility’. Suzy was an engaging and honest speaker as she explained and recounted the thorough research that went into every one of her novels, and the moving stories behind them. Suzy’s gift of being able to take the most dire tragedies and use them as a force for change was motivating for us all.
We would like to thank Mrs Ilott for working with us and allowing us to have such an enriching experience.
Olivia Connolly, Year 9
This issue of Siena Career News is jam packed with information to help students research and explore course and career areas that interest them. Our universities are always coming up with new courses and a few of these are explored in this edition of Siena Career News. Health Science and Allied Health are two areas that are very popular with Siena students and in this edition of Siena Career News the differences between Physiotherapy, Myotherapy, Chiropractic Science and Occupational therapy are explored.
Items in the latest Siena Career News include -
As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics remains on hold and Brisbane is declared the ‘preferred candidate city’ to host the 2032 Olympics, we flashback to Sydney 2000. Students Chantelle and Myriah were selected to participate in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch Relay, representing the College and the community.
Applications for the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund (CSEF) are now open. If you hold a valid Health Care Card (HCC), Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) or are a temporary foster parent and are a first-time applicant you may be eligible for a $1,000 fee discount.
If you believe you are eligible, please fill out and return the CSEF Application Form before 25 June, 2021.
If you applied for the CSEF in 2020 at Siena College, you do not need to complete an application form in 2021 unless there has been a change in your family circumstances.